Oxford's caution results in time warp

Cricket Oxford Univ 513-6 dec & 63-0 dec Cambridge Univ 164-3 dec & 271-6 Match drawn
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The Independent Online
There was some old-fashioned three-day cricket at Lord's first thing yesterday, though what it recalled was an unloved facet of the county game rather than the purer Varsity match. It was "declaration bowling".

Overnight there had evidently been a change of heart by an Oxford captain reluctant to risk his immensely strong position. But the agreement was still one in which he risked little: after a Cambridge declaration, Oxford would bat for half an hour and score 60 runs, leaving the Light Blues a target of around 410 in about five and a half hours.

The figure proved well out of reach, even with the launching pad of a comfortable 86-run opening stand. Thirteen overs lost to rain did not help, but Oxford would surely not have risked a great deal had they forfeited their second innings - and they would have given themselves a greater chance of victory.

Russell Cake and Ed Smith were unable to quite recapture the fluency of their first innings, but to some extent this was the result of the extreme angle of many deliveries from the left-armer Pierre du Preez. The batsmen were not tempted. Instead, several were called wide.

It would hardly have been frustration, though, that caused Cake to call for what would always have been a tight single as Smith played to backward point. His run-out was an aberration, just as his opposite number's had been on the first day.

Once again, all of Cambridge's leading batsmen made pleasant runs without going beyond the fifties. Aslo once again Anurag Singh looked the most exciting - especially with a huge back foot six to wide long-on off Du Preez - but then, not unusually, he drove casually to cover.

With the game nearing its end, Andy Whittall became the match's first batsman to get out in single figures as he slogged half-heartedly to extra cover.

Oxford got a faint scent of victory when they took a sixth wicket for 203, with an hour to play. But that was all. In the end, the game that saw the Varsity match's record total, Oxford beating their 1900 score of 503, drifted to the same result as 96 years ago. As Wisden said of that game, it was "drawn due to heavy scoring... the wicket one of the best-prepared at Lord's during the season, and the bowling looked comparatively harmless."

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